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Thriving Downtowns: an investment playbook for rural Appalachia

May 4, 2022

Appalachia is a region of contrasts. Rich history, abundant natural beauty, and hard-working, good-hearted people co-exist alongside enduring poverty and unemployment, polluted abandoned mine lands, chronic poor health, and widespread opioid abuse. Appalachia is historically under-resourced and underinvested. A 2017 report showed granting foundations spent only $43.00 per person in Appalachia versus the national average of $451.00. This means the average Appalachian resident had access to less than 10% of the charitable giving funds available to most Americans; yet, the need for investment and charitable giving in Appalachia is greater now than ever due to higher rates of poverty and unemployment, struggles with educational achievement, and poor health outcomes.These current facts do not have to be the final story of Appalachia. Geoff Marietta, an Eastern Kentucky investor and founder of Invest 606, eastern Kentucky's business accelerator and pitch competition, said in a recent interview that "if you want to be successful in investing, you have to know a secret...you have to know something no one else knows, because if everyone else knows, it becomes price competitive." The secret Geoff knows is simple: Appalachia is one of the best places in America to invest. There is a movement across the region with local residents leading the charge to rewrite the story of Appalachia as people are currently investing in their communities like never before. After over a century of relying on coal, a single extractive industry, locals are spurring an entrepreneurship renaissance and making their hometowns places where they want to continue living and others want to start visiting.This playbook builds on the momentum of the Appalachian Investment Ecosystem Initiative, Invest Appalachia, Central Appalachian Network, Appalachian Funders Network, and countless other efforts to foster sustainable economic development across the region, and provides communities with tools and resources to stimulate downtown revitalization. 

Health Disparities in Appalachia: The First In A Series Exploring Health Issues in Appalachia

August 1, 2017

Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia: Disparities and Bright Spots is an innovative research initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and administered by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. This multi-part health research project will, in successive reports: measure population health and document disparities in health outcomes in the Appalachian Region compared to the United States as a whole, as well as disparities within the Appalachian Region; identify "Bright Spots," or communities that exhibit better-than-expected health outcomes given their resources; and explore a sample of the Bright Spot communities through in-depth, field-based case studies. Taken together, these reports will provide a basis for understanding and addressing health issues in the Appalachian Region. This research initiative aims to identify factors that support a Culture of Health in Appalachian communities and explore replicable activities, programs, or policies that encourage better-than-expected health outcomes that could translate into actions that other communities can replicate.This first report, Health Disparities in Appalachia, measures population health in Appalachia and documents disparities between the Region and the nation as a whole, as well as disparities within the Appalachian Region.

Appalachia Partnership Initiative Progress Report

April 1, 2017

This report highlights progress made by the API through 2016. In this report you'll learn about the people, programs, communities, and projects that we support. The API is very proud of what it have accomplished so far, and looks forward to making even more of an impact in the coming years.

How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?

December 9, 2016

While mass incarceration has emerged as an urgent national issue to be addressed, the reforms currently offered are dwarfed by the scale of the problem. The country needs bolder solutions.How can we significantly cut the prison population while still keeping the country safe? This report puts forth one answer to that question. Our path forward is not offered as the only answer or as an absolute. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point for a broader discussion about how the country can rethink and revamp the outdated sentencing edifice of the last four decades. This report is the product of three years of research conducted by one of the nation's leading criminologists, experienced criminal justice lawyers, and statistical researchers. First, we conducted an in-depth examination of the federal and state criminal codes, as well as the convictions and sentences of the nationwide prison population (1.46 million prisoners serving time for 370 different crime categories) to estimate how many people are currently incarcerated without a sufficient public safety rationale. We find that alternatives to incarceration are more effective and just penalties for many lower-level crimes. We also find that prison sentences can safely be shortened for a discrete set of more serious crimes. Second, based on these findings, we propose a new, alternative framework for sentencing grounded in the science of public safety and rehabilitation.Many have argued that regimented sentencing laws should be eliminated and replaced with broad judicial discretion. Others counter that this would reinstate a system wherein judges are free to deliver vastly divergent sentences for the same crime, potentially exacerbating racial disparities and perpetuating the tradition of harsh sentences.This report proposes a new solution, building on these past proposals. We advocate that today's sentencing laws should change to provide default sentences that are proportional to the specific crime committed and in line with social science research, instead of based on conjecture. These defaults should mandate sentences of alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. For some other crimes that warrant incarceration, they should mandate shorter sentences. Judges should have discretion to depart from these defaults in special circumstances, such as a defendant's criminal history, mental health or addiction issues, or specifics of the crime committed. This approach is grounded in the premise that the first principle of 21st century sentencing should be to protect public safety, and that sentences should levy the most effective, proportional, and cost-efficient sanction to achieve that goal. It aims to create more uniform sentences and reduce disparities, while preserving judicial discretion when needed. Our proposed sentencing defaults for each crime weigh four factors:Seriousness: Murder, for instance, should be treated as a far graver crime than writing a bad check.Victim Impact: If a person has been harmed in the commission of a crime, especially physically, weight toward a more serious sentence.Intent: If the actor knowingly and deliberately violated the law, a more severe sanction may be appropriate.Recidivism: Those more likely to reoffend may need more intervention. Our findings and recommendations, determined by applying the four factors above to the prison population, are detailed below. (The rationale for these factors and our full methodology is described in Appendix A.)

No Bars: Unlocking the Economic Power of the Fomerly Incarcerated

November 29, 2016

For the 30 percent of U.S. adults with criminal records, attaining economic success after leaving prison relies on the ability to find good jobs, says a new paper released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Even those with minor offenses and those who have been arrested but not charged can encounter numerous barriers in their search for employment. Significant among the obstacles are occupational licensing requirements that bar those with criminal records from professions that otherwise might provide economic independence and positively impact the American economy.The study, "No Bars: Unlocking the Economic Power of the Formerly Incarcerated," summarizes recent research on employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, focusing on the disproportionate effect of occupational licensing requirements.Between 60 percent and 75 percent of the more than 600,000 Americans released from federal and state prisons each year are still unemployed one year after release. Those who have found jobs make less money than do individuals without criminal records."Hundreds of professions that require occupational licenses could provide paths to economic independence for those formerly incarcerated, except for the fact that their criminal histories alone may ban them from receiving licenses, even if their convictions had no relevancy to the job," said Emily Fetsch, research assistant at the Kauffman Foundation and author of the paper. "Removing these barriers would benefit the formerly incarcerated and their families, curb recidivism and boost the economy overall."High rates of incarceration affect people of color disproportionately. Compared to white men, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated, and Hispanic men are 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated."Licensing restrictions can block an important avenue to self-sufficiency," says Jason Wiens, policy director at the Kauffman Foundation. "Numerous options for reform exist."The effect of occupational licensing is a closing off of numerous low-skill (e.g., nail technician or barber) and high-skill (e.g., architect or geologist) jobs that could give formerly incarcerated individuals a means for supporting themselves and their families.The "No Bars" paper recommends these policy changes to remove unnecessary occupational licensing barriers to employment:Exclude people with criminal records from jobs that require occupational licenses only when their convictions are recent, relevant to the occupation and pose a public safety threat.Offer former inmates the opportunity to secure certificates of restoration or rehabilitation that would open the door to receiving occupational licenses.Prevent individuals who have been arrested for, but never convicted of, crimes from being disqualified from occupational licensing based solely on the arrest.Question the need for occupational licensing policy altogether, rather than simply considering its restructuring. When public health is not threatened, licensing could be replaced by certification or another lesser form of regulation. 

Agriculture and Food System Trends in the Appalachian Region: 2007- 2012

March 31, 2015

This data brief was produced by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to establish baseline data on trends in local food systems in the Appalachian Region. The tabular and graphic contents of the brief show trends in the Region's food and farm sector between 2007 and 2012, including comparisons between regional and state groupings of counties, ARC counties to their relative states, and the Appalachian Region to national statistics. The purpose of this brief is to provide an overview of trends in data; it is not an analysis of the causes or potential effects of changes over time.All data for this report come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture provides a crucial source of information on national agricultural trends, collecting uniform data at state and county levels every five years. Nevertheless, the Census of Agriculture is limited in that it does not provide contextual, qualitative information to explain data trends particularly at smaller local and/or regional scales. Therefore, the data in this document should be viewed in light of this limitation - it is just one source of information that can be used to document changes in agriculture in the Appalachian Region.

Growing a Local Food Economy: A Guide to Getting Started

July 29, 2013

Family farms and local food are the heart of healthy communities.What if every child in your community understood where their food comes from and how to make healthy local food choices? What if everyone in your community had access to fresh, healthy, locally produced food? What if local economies were more stable and stronger thanks to a greater connection to and reliance on quality products from local farms? What if your food was safer because you knew where it came from, how it was grown, and who grew it? With a thriving local food economy, these what ifs are a reality.For more than a decade, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has helped create a vibrant local food economy in the Southern Appalachians and served as a national leader in the local food movement. ASAP's mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food. We achieve our mission by partnering with individuals, other organizations, and farmers. Together, we form a growing movement that is committed to preserving our agricultural heritage; increasing access to fresh, healthy food; and saving family farms. This guide is intended to provide your community with valuable guidance on the core components of developing a strong local food economy.

WKKF Legacy Essay: Engagement

January 2, 2013

In emphasizing community and civic engagement as core strategies for creating conditions in which vulnerable children can succeed, the foundation has made tactics such as leadership development and adult education mainstays of its programming.

Benchmarking Beyond Asset Size Top 100 Lists - FY 2010

June 6, 2011

In this publication, CF Insights highlights attributes that characterize community foundations in ways beyond asset values.2010 Columbus Survey participants are ranked based on:– Most Active Grantmakers—distribution rates, with percent of donor-advised assets– Most Gifts per Capita—gifts per capita, with population of community served– Most Activity—total gift & grant transactions, with average transaction size

Healthy Food Systems: A Toolkit for Building Value Chains

July 20, 2009

This toolkit is designed to help new and emerging healthy food system value chain efforts. While it draws heavily from the experience of Appalachian Sustainable Development, including particularly its Appalachian Harvest network, it also includes ideas, challenges and insights from other value chain and food system initiatives, both within Appalachia and other parts of the country. The toolkit is intended to be a hands on resource which can help spur new thinking, help refine plans, and perhaps help guide implementation of new and emerging food system initiatives.

Snapshots of Social Change: A New Survey of Views from Rural America

June 22, 2007

Presents initial findings from a telephone survey of 6,500 people living in rural counties of six regions: the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Midwest, Appalachia, and the Mississippi Delta.

Appalachian Coalfield Delegation Position Paper on Sustainable Energy

April 11, 2007

Appalachian grassroots groups(with support provided by the DataCenter) release a scathing report on the impact of coal mining to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. The Delegation created an historic moment with its powerful stories and diverse outreach. Alliances were forged and the civil society discourse on energy, particularly what is sustainable energy and who gets to define it, has been challenged. Their answer---"it comes from the people!" As most government officials continue to ignore the atrocities of mountain top removal, coal sludge impoundments, and underground injections of sludge, it is up to the people of the Appalachian coal fields to let the world know the harsh realities of an economy built on seemingly cheap electricity.